Veteran judge named to Jackson case

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Veteran judge named to Jackson case By Quintin Cushner/Staff Writer Dec 31 2003 Judge Rodney Melville likely will face national scrutiny and fame after being selected to preside over all criminal proceedings in the Michael Jackson child molestation case. Santa Barbara County Superior Court Presiding Judge Clifford Anderson made the assignment Monday, bestowing all aspects of the case to Melville. On Jan. 16, Jackson will appear before Melville for arraignment at the Santa Maria Courts Complex on Cook Street. A courtroom for the case has not yet been announced, though it will likely be at Dept. 8 in the Miller Division, which is occupied by officially-retired Judge Rick Brown, sources said. Melville, a 16-year veteran on the bench, is currently hearing civil cases in Dept. 2 of the Cook Division. He is also the assistant presiding judge of the county Superior Courts, a position he was elected to by his fellow county judges. “Judge Melville is best qualified for this,” said Gary Blair, executive officer of the Santa Barbara Superior Courts. “He’s done every type of case you can imagine, and is a great trial judge.” If either the prosecution or defense is unhappy with Melville’s assignment, they can file a “peremptory disqualification” within 15 days, Blair said. The disqualification action allows either side to have an assigned judge removed once during a case without showing cause, Blair said. Melville likely will continue hearing his civil cases until the Jackson case becomes all-encompassing, Blair said. Melville was appointed to the Municipal Court bench by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1987, and was elevated to the Superior Court in 1990. He will serve as the courts Assistant Presiding Judge until Jan. 2005, at which point he will again become the Presiding Judge, a position he last held in 2002. Melville also has served in private practice at the firm of Melville and Iwasko in Santa Maria. Before moving to Santa Maria in 1971, he was deputy district attorney in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office for two years. He’s a graduate of San Diego State University and Hastings College of the Law. Neither District Attorney Tom Sneddon nor Defense Attorney Mark Geragos could be reached for comment on Melville’s assignment. Melville would not comment on his new assignment Monday. Jackson, 45, allegedly engaged in lewd acts with a 13-year old boy – identified in the court filings only as “John Doe” – on seven occasions between Feb. 7 and March 20. He also is charged with two counts of “administering an intoxicating agent” – reportedly wine – to enable and assist him with the alleged molestations. The allegations are believed to involve a cancer-stricken boy, now 14, who spent nights in Jackson’s bedroom at his Neverland estate, near Los Olivos. The child will testify in the proceedings, Sneddon has said. In other developments, Jackson was told Monday to surrender his passport unless he supplies “documented confirmation” that he plans on going to Britain to promote his new CD. Sneddon made the demand to Jackson’s attorney in a faxed letter. Sneddon said in a statement that he sought confirmation of the planned Dec. 20 to Jan. 6 trip after hearing reports that the singer had canceled it. Sneddon agreed to return Jackson’s passport last week after Geragos said the entertainer needed to fulfill contractual obligations related to his new CD, “Number Ones.” London’s Sun newspaper reported Sunday that Jackson had pulled out of a planned Christmas tour. But Jackson’s spokesman, Stuart Backerman, said Monday that he believed the trip was still on. “I’m not aware of any cancellation,” Backerman said. “He still is planning to go as far as I know.” The Associated Press contributed to this report. Staff writer Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or by e-mail at :nav Source:

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